10/15/14: Poloncarz Presents 2015 Erie County Proposed Budget

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:19pm

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Date: 
10/15/14

Responsible, Balanced Proposal Includes No Property Tax Increase, Makes Critical Investments in Roads, Infrastructure, Public Safety

Funding Increases for Libraries, Tourism, Culturals; Progress Noted on “Initiatives for a Smart Economy”; Mandated Costs Rise

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz presented his Fiscal Year 2015 proposed Erie County Budget (“Proposed Budget”), which maintains and enhances Erie County’s quality-of-life services and programs while holding the line on taxes. The proposed Budget also demonstrates the Poloncarz administration’s commitment to improving County infrastructure by investing over $38 million in the 2015 capital budget and road fund, strengthening libraries with over $1.45 million in new capital and operational funding, and targeting investments in the “People’s Mandates,” public safety, and cultural & tourism programs.

“A good budget should be a common sense document that addresses the needs of our constituents and spurs positive change in our community. The budget we are proposing today is such a document. It was formed in a bi-partisan manner, and is the product of careful consideration following numerous conversations with both caucuses of the Legislature on their priorities and needs,” said Poloncarz.  “With this Proposed Budget we are reaffirming my administration’s commitment to investing in our infrastructure, enhancing public health and safety, and providing the services that taxpayers demand in a very cost effective manner. This is the third budget I have presented as County Executive and it builds on the successes we’ve seen in the past three years while also recognizing the burden that state-mandated costs place on Erie County.”

The “People’s Mandates,” those programs that residents expect and demand and that encompass a wide spectrum of County services, receive continued investment and support in the 2015 Proposed Budget.

Prominent among these investments is $451,766 in new operational funding for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, combined with $1 million in capital funding for work at the downtown Central Library. That capital work includes $500,000 for renovations to the Mason O. Damon auditorium. With the additional $451,766 in operating assistance, the Library’s total operating allocation is nearly $1.2 million higher than it was when Poloncarz took office in January 2012.

Elsewhere, more than $38 million is included in the 2015 capital budget and road fund allocations, including $2 million in fund balance to conduct additional road and bridge work; for the third year in a row, the Proposed Budget provides funding for new vans for the very popular “Going Places” senior citizen transportation program; the Budget also maintains the administration’s ongoing commitment to Operation PrimeTime and the Rodent Control Program while providing modest increases to to organizations that benefit the agricultural community, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District;  provides new funds to hold additional Household Hazardous Waste and electronics collection events across Erie County; and addresses increasing usage at Erie County parks by providing more capital and operating funds to conduct improvements.

“The ‘People’s Mandates’ are the programs and services taxpayers expect for their tax dollar, are important to them, and add to the quality of life here in Erie County. This Proposed Budget not only provides funding for these mandates but expands it in some cases,” said Poloncarz. “Including these People’s Mandates in the Budget and enhancing them wherever possible reaffirms my administration’s commitment to building a community that citizens want to live, work, and play in.”

A clear and invigorated focus on protecting the health and well-being of residents is evident in the Proposed Budget, which calls for adding eight (8) new part-time E-911 police dispatchers to provide support to law enforcement agencies and police officers; adding four (4) new probation officers, one of whom is a supervisor, to handle growing caseloads and to provide a mechanism for diversion programs to support alternatives to incarceration;  adding new detectives in the Sheriff’s Division to investigate, in part, narcotics and drug crimes in Erie County; adding a new public health educator position in the Department of Health to help combat the growing heroin epidemic in our area; adding a new part-time position (for the first time in a decade) in the Office of Veterans Affairs to assist our veterans and provide support to those seeking help navigating the often complex system; maintaining the  increased staffing for the Child Protective Services unit; and picking up the funding slack from cuts in state and federal grants to continue work on domestic violence prevention, education, investigation, and victim assistance. 

“It is incumbent on us to do all we can to safeguard the health of residents, whether through additional law enforcement, public health, or educational outreach to help people make better decisions. We stand together against domestic violence, abuse, and other behaviors that are harmful to children, families, and our community as a whole,” Poloncarz said. “The Proposed Budget provides structure to reinforce the areas where new personnel are needed, provide the people required to handle growing caseloads, and continue funding vital programs where necessary.”

Unveiled in June 2013, the “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” plan is a comprehensive and innovative approach to economic development that builds on the framework of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and Governor Cuomo’s “Billion for Buffalo” strategy to addresses our region’s challenges. Over 40 of the 64 Initiatives in the plan have been begun, with some already completed and more to be announced soon. The 2015 Proposed Budget continues to support the Initiatives for a Smart Economy through:

 

  • Increasing funding for cultural organizations that enrich our community and attract tourism dollars, including funding a number of new applicants and agencies that have never before been awarded funds;
  • Building on the tremendous success of projects like “Shark Girl” by continuing funding for a public arts curator position at the Albright Knox Art Gallery; 
  • Providing increases in funding to support the critical tourism promotion and related development initiatives promoted by Visit Buffalo-Niagara, the Convention Center Management Corporation and the Buffalo-Niagara Film Commission-WNED.
  • Providing funding for the Land Bank to continue its solid work in acquiring and selling distressed, abandoned or foreclosed properties and helping return such parcels to productive use in the community; and
  • For the first time since 2008, increasing the sponsor contribution to ECC by $125,000, reinforcing a commitment to the college’s educational mission, including in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Poloncarz added, “Strong partnerships and wise use of resources are essential to the success of the Initiatives for a Smart Economy, and we have already seen critical successes as the Initiatives are implemented. Erie County is leading the way in building a more vibrant local economy, and this Proposed Budget once again leverages available funding and collaborations with partners to move the Initiatives forward.”

The Erie County General Fund budget for 2015 will be $1.43 billion, which represents a 2.86% or $39.7 million increase in spending over 2014. Nearly 90% of the Budget is dictated by mandated costs from New York State and the federal government, costs which are the primary drivers behind the spending increase. Some of these mandated costs include dramatic increases in the caseloads and expense of the Safety Net program (for the second year in a row), and additional spending for Correctional Health services to resolve union grievances. Additionally, due to a mid-year 2014 decision by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) affecting the state training school program, there will be large increases in the daily cost charged to the County for housing youth detained in such facilities. This is translating to a 2015 projected cost of $2.7 million higher than was budgeted in 2014 for this program. Other cost increases looming in 2015 include increases under newly negotiated collective bargaining agreements in 2013 and 2014, particularly the CSEA contract, and continuing increases in debt service payment obligations related to the aforementioned road and highway improvements and projects.

“As has been the case throughout my time as County Executive, the property tax rate per thousand will remain $5.03 in 2015, which it has been since 2009.  I would also mention that this is one of the lowest county property tax rates in the state and a lower rate than in 1990,” Poloncarz concluded. “While we are facing increased costs in some areas, we are also seeing reductions in fringe benefit expenses, lessened Medicaid expense as the state’s ‘hard cap’ goes into effect, the inclusion of $3.5 million in casino revenue for the first time, and $6.2 million in additional revenue to the levy from assessment growth.”

Click here to view the 2015 Erie County Budget: